Lipinski Joined by Quigley and Durbin in Push for Funding for Railroad Safety Technology (July 6, 2015)
Representatives Dan Lipinski (IL-3) and Mike Quigley (IL-5), along with Illinois U.S. Senator Dick Durbin and officials from Metra, called for additional federal funding for positive train control (PTC) and other rail safety improvements today at LaSalle Street Station in Chicago. PTC uses GPS to track train movements and override human errors to prevent accidents like the one that occurred near Philadelphia on May 12 that killed eight people. Presently, most commuter and freight railroad companies, including Metra, say they will fail to meet a federally mandated deadline requiring full installation of PTC by the end of the year. Railroads that do not meet the deadline could face fines of up to $25,000 a day per track segment. A Federal Railroad Administration official told Congressman Lipinski during a recent Rail Subcommittee hearing that they might even shut down railroads that don't comply with the PTC mandate.
“Representing a district with a vast number of passenger and freight rail lines, I have always made rail safety a top priority on the Railroad Subcommittee,” said Rep. Lipinski. “That is why back in 2008 I included language in a bill to create the Rail Safety Technology Grant program to help railroads install life-saving PTC more quickly. Unfortunately, Congress never fully-funded this program and commuter railroads like Metra have not been able to implement PTC. That is why I have joined with Rep. Quigley on a bill to reauthorize the grant program and to work together so that Metra can get federal help to install this critical safety technology.”
“Implementing positive train control is vitally important to ensuring that our national rail system provides the utmost level of safety for the millions of passengers that use our passenger railroads each year,” said Congressman Quigley. “But the scary thing is that our nation’s commuter railroads are much farther behind on implementation than Amtrak. Congress has mandated this important rail safety technology, but has refused to fund it. With the deadline for implementation just months away, it’s time for Congress to help our commuter railroads employ positive train control and prevent the kind of tragedies we recently saw on Amtrak.”
Earlier this year, Reps. Lipinski and Quigley introduced the Reassuring Adequate Investment in Lifesaving Systems (RAILS) Act, which reauthorizes the Rail Safety Technology Grant program to improve the safety of our nation’s railroads. In 2008, Congress established the PTC mandate for all railroads in the Rail Safety Improvement Act and Lipinski included language in that same bill to authorize the Rail Safety Technology Grant program through 2013 to assist railroads in meeting the mandate deadline. He and Congressman Quigley helped provide $60 million for the grant program in 2014, but Congress had failed to provide full funding over the years. In order to help railroads – especially commuter railroads – finish installing positive train control as soon as possible, the RAILS Act provides $200 million for each of the next five years for PTC safety technologies, rail integrity inspection systems, a system for electronic communication regarding hazardous material rail shipments, and other new rail safety items.
Rep. Lipinski is the most senior member from Illinois on the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, serving on three subcommittees: Railroads, Pipelines, and Hazardous Materials; Aviation; and Highways and Transit.